Kent State announces plan to return to campus for fall semester

In an email Friday morning, Kent State University’s reopening committees announced their plan to resume residential living and in-person classes in August as they are developing several scenarios to ensure a safe experience for our university’s community.

“We’re engaging over 100 faculty, staff and students in this process across all different areas of the university system. We really are developing a plan where we’re equitable, flexible and reasonable following CDC and state guidelines,” said Manfred van Dulmen, interim associate provost of Kent State University. 

Although in-person classes will resume, there will be notable differences during the next school year, according to the email. Students will likely enroll in a combination of face-to-face and remotely taught courses.

When possible, the university will allow faculty who wish to teach in person to do so, while other professors teach remotely as they desire. Van Dulmen said the university has the same goal in regard to students.

“The president has made a commitment that we do not want to put teachers in the classroom face-to-face if they aren’t comfortable with that or have an underlying health condition,” van Dulmen said.  

The American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, is involved as part of the ad-hoc academic continuity committee, which helps the university organize the class schedule for the fall and how to put instructors safely in the classroom, van Dulmen said. 

The university is also considering changes to the academic calendar, including moving to fully remote instruction for the few remaining days in the semester after Thanksgiving. And, if at any time during the semester the pandemic worsens, the university will be prepared to move all instruction to remote learning.

According to van Dulmen, athletics is a part of reopening efforts. Kent State is working with National Collegiate Athletic Association, conference and state guidelines to develop a plan. 

Community facilities, such as the Kent State Recreation and Wellness Center, are still closed, and a decision has not been made involving when they will reopen. 

The university also established the Flashes Safe Seven Principles to guide the return to campus activity. Everyone on a Kent State campus will be asked to adhere to these operating principles to create what the email said was “the safest return possible.”

These principles include: 

  • Face masks or cloth facial coverings are required. The university is working to make face masks available for those who do not have their own. 

  • Community members must rigorously practice hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 

  • All employees will be required to clean and sanitize their workspaces and common spaces throughout the day, between shifts and at the close of each day. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones and keyboards. Classrooms will be cleaned on an enhanced schedule.

  • Social distancing guidelines will be strictly enforced requiring individuals to maintain at least 6 feet of separation from others. Supervisors will be assessing each workspace and classroom to determine an appropriate plan for social distancing in each area. This may include the installation of plexiglass, face shields, modifications to traffic flow and/or changes to work schedules. Replace in-person meetings with video or teleconference calls when possible.

  • All members of the university community must self-monitor daily for symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Employees showing symptoms of COVID-19 should leave work immediately and seek medical evaluation by calling your Primary Care Physician, DeWeese Health Center at 330-672-2322 or your local urgent care center. Students showing COVID-19 symptoms should isolate from others immediately and seek medical evaluation by calling DeWeese Health Center at 330-672-2322 or calling your Primary Care Physician. Always call ahead before seeking in-person medical help. Employees and students who are diagnosed with probable or confirmed COVID-19 will be contacted by their local health department and will be given additional guidance and instructions.

The university will continue to plan for a return to all Kent State campuses, as guided by state and federal guidelines and the counsel of the university’s own health experts. 

“This is a very fluid situation. So what we expect things to be like today, may be very different in August,” van Dulmen said. 

By June 1, the university will share plans for a phased approach to return to campuses with students, faculty and staff. 

“We really want to have a fall semester that works for our students, our staff and our faculty, but also do it in a way that is safe and in the best interest of everybody who is involved in the university community,” van Dulmen said. 

At this time, employees who are currently working remotely should continue to do so. Shortly, supervisors will receive additional information and instructions for preparing the campuses. Anyone deemed essential to return to campus will work closely with their supervisor to follow the Flashes Safe Seven Principles.

This article was updated to include an interview with Interim Associate Provost Manfred van Dulmen. 

Contact Maria McGinnis at [email protected] Jenna Borthwick, [email protected], also contributed to this report.